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Title: Mind Hack Author: Peter R.

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  • eris
    Re: Title: Mind Hack Author: Peter R.

    This reminds me of a "Black Mirror" episode.

    Good Luck!

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  • eris
    started a topic Title: Mind Hack Author: Peter R.

    Title: Mind Hack Author: Peter R.

    Jake's head hurt. It hurt a lot. It felt like the morning after an all-night party when a careless, stupid or inherently evil roommate decided he should be woken up by the most insipid boy-band that had ever existed and at the loudest possible volume.

    His eyes blurred and the world spun around him, he put the painful memory aside for the moment.

    He tried closing his eyes but that just made everything spin faster. Slowly he made himself consciously focus on one object close to him, then another, then another, each one a little farther away than the last one and finally his vision cleared up and the pain subsided into a dull, but menacing, ache in the back of his head.

    Maybe this just wasn't meant to work. Maybe he should be happy with the success he'd had so far. He couldn't. No matter what physical somatics he created for himself he was obsessed. But in reflecting on it, at least he knew he was obsessed - and at least he didn't talk to himself, much.

    Jake felt a minor vibration in his temple, somebody was calling. He reached up and touched the chip with his finger, not trusting his mental ability to answer hands-free at the moment.

    "Mmmhmm" Jake half-moaned in answer as he looked at the communicator on his wrist to see who was calling.

    "Yo, Jake - are you awake?" Chuck asked. Then added, "Man, you look like crap."

    "Feel like it." Jake replied. He switched the video off to avoid further comments, plus all his work was out and who knew if this was being recorded or tapped - better safe than sorry.

    "Are you still being your own guinea pig? You know that's dangerous - no offence but I wouldn't go beaming anything into my head if I could avoid it." Chuck stated flatly.

    Chuck wasn't the most technically savvy friend Jake had, but he was half-decent and was the only friend he had that also possessed social skills. So he did have his usefulness.

    Deciding to get to the point, Jake asked "What do you want? I'm seriously considering drinking myself unconscious at the moment and talking to you is only prolonging the pain."

    "Well, if you're treating yourself like some kind of pig, you might as well eat like one." Chuck commented, as if this was supposed to mean something to him. Jake remained silent for a moment. Thinking about that was just not going to happen right now.

    "What are you talking about?" Jake asked, somewhat annoyed.

    "It's your day out! I knew you'd forget since time doesn't exist somehow in your apartment, so I called to remind you. If you don't keep human contact at least once a week, I fear we'll loose you." Chuck joked with him, "I'll meet you at Panda in half an hour. Sam and Barry are coming too."

    "Ok, fine. See you soon." Jake replied.

    These outings annoyed and frustrated Jake as he was always in the middle of something, but he was also always happy afterwards as Chuck was right to some degree. He did have to go outside and interact with other warm bodies now and again. Once a week was enough.


    "Didn't we eat here last week?" Jake asked Chuck as he walked into the outside seating area carrying his food tray.

    Chuck beckoned him to sit down across the table. "Yeah, but Barry wanted to eat here again. I think it's because he just upgraded his traffic controller and wants to show off. This place has a good view of the traffic lanes."

    Jake looked off to the side of the seating area where cars were zooming by on the nearby street, all at exactly the same speeds and in perfect synchronicity. Traffic control really had become precise these days - every car had a GPS that was sync'd to the city's grid. Each car had to have a remote system installed that activated when it reached the street. All you had to do now was enter your destination address and the city's computers would control your car to its destination. You didn't really drive anymore unless you went to the speedway or off-road - which some people did, but otherwise congestion and accidents, drunk drivers and all that sort of thing was history.

    Jake shrugged, "Barry really does love the traffic system. Thinks it's fascinating. I guess to each his own."

    "You're one to talk - Mr. brain feedback diode." Chuck said smirking.

    Jake let it go, there was no point in explaining to Chuck.

    "Am I late?" Sam asked as he walked up from behind them.

    "No, we just got here. Chuck replied.

    As Sam was sitting down the sound of traffic quieted slightly and they all looked up to see what had occurred.

    A beat up blue Nissan was making good time through the crowds of cars, each of which automatically moved aside to let it through.

    "That'll be Barry" Sam said, chuckling.

    Barry pulled up in front of them and revved a few times, as if he was in a sports car, then pulled up into a choice spot, one none of their cars ever would've chosen for them.

    "Barry, I don't get out much - but you've got to give me your latest update, I hate walking half a mile from wherever the car decides to park! How did you do that?" Jake asked in a rare display of interest.

    "Oh, now you care, huh? It's actually pretty simple. As you know the whole traffic system is controlled by the MOM - Metropolitan Ongoing Motion protocol. Basically when you queue up to go to your destination a wireless encrypted tunnel is established - which is why you can't tell other cars to go to other places. BUT as network availability may be somewhat intermittent, your car can run on its own GPS with the last directions it got and in that case it starts broadcasting a beacon saying where it's at. Other cars pick this up and adjust if they're too close so you don't have accidents. Here's the kicker though, they modified the protocol almost instantly as it didn't factor in emergency vehicles. Basically all they did was add a priority to the beacon and emergency vehicles when they need to cut traffic just start broadcasting the same beacon but with a flag that says get out of my way. That's sent in the clear as it has to be for other cars to deal with it. Impersonating an emergency vehicle might be a bit too noticeable, so I'm sending a '2', which makes me some kind of visiting president or something. I like to think I'm the King of Traffic." Sam smirked and settled back in his chair, thoroughly proud of himself.

    "So all that means you could get anywhere like twice as fast?" Chuck asked, hoping he'd understood half of what Barry just explained.

    "Well, I still need to get into the automated speed controls, but so far it at least means I'm going the speed limit at all times and don't ever have to stop." Barry replied.

    "Do you have your presentation ready?" Jake asked.

    "Yeah, he's right - you should rehearse, too. DEFCON's only like a week off." Chuck added.

    "Now that everything's working I just have to do the video and scaled version for demonstration. I'll be all set." Barry answered. "What about you though, Jake - any more breakthroughs?"

    "It's still not totally there yet. I'm ready with what I have, but it's not what I want. I keep feeling like I'm missing something basic." Jake said as he rubbed his temples with his hand, both in frustration and as it had started to throb again with the mention of his experiments.

    "Maybe it'd help to talk somebody else through where you're up to. Explaining it to somebody else always makes you look at it differently. I'm no neurosurgeon, but I have a basic understanding." Barry offered. "I'm not putting that thing on my head though! Just so we get that straight from the beginning." He added as an afterthought.

    "Yeah, maybe. I'll give it a shot anyway - worst case it'd be a good get a second opinion. Do me a favor though, re-watch Ziggy's talk on MTT from DEFCON 25, that was the landmark disclosure of Mental Transmitter Technology. A lot of my work is based on that." Jake said thoughtfully. "About 8 would be fine. I can be set up by then."

    "Sure, sounds fun." Barry said.

    The group finished their meal while reminiscing over the highlights of past year's DEFCON parties.

    As Jake bade his friends goodbye, Sam called him over, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

    "Sure." Jake shrugged and walked over to where Sam was standing, a few yards away from anybody else.

    "Tonight I want you to turn on those scramblers I gave you. Keep them on. Try to stay out of sight and be sure to keep an eye out for anything strange." Sam instructed.

    "Huh?" Jake looked confused as he turned to his friend.

    "Weird stuff, man. As usual I can't tell you much - but something's happening in your area. Been happening for the past three days. You do anything three days ago?" Sam asked.

    "Is this an investigation?" Jake asked taking a step back.

    Sam was part of the Office of Special Investigations for the government. He ended up getting into all sorts of crazy stuff one way or another.

    "No. This isn't an official conversation. But when I was scanning É ", he paused for a minute, "nevermind, the point is there are strange frequencies and certain signatures all over your neighborhood. Nobody else in that area would warrant any attention so far as we know." Sam warned.

    "So you think somebody's coming to get me?" Jake asked.

    "What did you do three days ago?" Sam repeated the question.

    Jake thought for a minute, at least the shock of all this had cleared his mind. Then he frowned as he remembered which day three days ago was. "I got word that I would be speaking at DEFCON and started putting together my presentation. That pretty much consumed the whole day."

    "Tracking. Well, like I said, scramble and be safe. I'll see what I can do to increase patrols. Don't worry too much. It might be nothing." Sam said, but didn't look convinced.


    Jake let Barry in and had him take a seat on the couch in the main room of his three-room apartment. It had a bedroom, a kitchen and one other larger room which served to deal with everything else. Half of the main room was taken up by a work-table with a micro-circuit-soldering iron, his scopes, reference books, a full rack of servers devoted to his work, plus various bits of robotic and mechanical apparatus. The other half was a wall screen, a couch and coffee table with keyboards and snacks scattered across it. A bookshelf sat against the side wall with a strange mixture of various books.

    "Ok, so you re-watched Ziggy?" Jake asked.

    "Yes, but honestly I only understood half to two-thirds of what he was talking about." Barry confessed.

    "Fine. Not many people really understand all of it. The bottom line though is that when your mind orders your body to do something, that command - whether it's to move the hand to open a beer or kick a ball or shift to fifth gear - has a common end-point in your head. That was the first breakthrough. Those commands were all at a certain manifest wavelength and frequency and they all arrived at a certain spot. The brain's function was to convert those commands into the various electrical impulses and emotional-glandular reactions that then travelled through the body to accomplish those ends.

    "With that solved Ziggy was able to create a magnetic field between two tiny electromagnets on either side of the head and detect and record those commands. That's how the current interpreters work. They take the command to move your right hand and translate it into panning right on a camera. So when you connect up to a remote camera you think move right hand, and it moves right. As you work with it more, your mind starts to get used to it and reaction times can be increased dramatically as you can pan in tiny or large amount without having to type commands or move a mouse, etc. - controlling devices in this way changed the world." Jake recapped.

    "And you're trying to get feedback, right? That's basically what you're working on - right now it's only one-way and you need a screen or viewer or whatever. So you're trying to convert video or images into something you see somehow?" Barry asked.

    "Kind of. You're right that it's only one-way and mainly that's because the command end-point isn't apparently the same spot where data gets picked back up. It's been spectrally analyzed and there are different spots for different types of perceptions. I'm focusing on sight at the moment, just to limit it initially." Jake said.

    "I have two questions, to interrupt you, so far. One is where do the commands come from and two can't you just match whatever the energy pattern is at the pick up spot to create a visual?" Barry tilted his head as he asked the questions.

    "One, I don't know - ask a meta-physicist or priest, I'm not either and it doesn't matter for the purposes of my work. On your second question, there are a few issues. First of all, you'd have to capture the energy pattern that you wanted the person to see and each person is slightly different. Plus, you could record the pattern of a person seeing something and then recreate it - but it comes across as a memory not as a present-time occurrence. It seems like the mind has it's own timestamp system and that's embedded in the pattern. The other is, what if you want to show the guy something he hasn't seen before? If you're controlling a camera and a bad guy is breaking in and he hasn't seen that, you don't have a pattern to replay; even assuming you could handle the timestamping issue." Jake answered as he collapsed into a chair.

    "So what's your angle?" Barry asked.

    "I decoded the timestamps by comparing millions of consecutive microseconds of my own observation of the same thing and then comparing the diffs. That's what I have to show for myself so far. That's what I meant by it's fine, but it's not what I want." Jake's focus shifted and he started starting into space again.

    "That's awesome though, dude - it's totally a breakthrough!" Barry reassured him.

    Jake frowned.

    "It's a waste of time - cameras can already record stuff and play it back - that's like 80 years old." Jake mumbled.

    "So wait - you're just trying to hack the encoding, right? Fundamentally that's simple, get a massive data sample and take known data and comparatives and break it piece by piece, then each part gets easier as you have more of it. Wouldn't that work?" Barry asked, he sat forward as he started to get more into it.

    Jake smiled wryly. "I did. I broke most of it. I can change some things in an existing pattern. You know - blue cup to red cup - but I can't create a new image. Part of the pattern, I suppose it's like the headers that define the structure, just doesn't resolve. There is too wide a range and no matches. I've been playing with changing bits and pieces of it to test on a trial and error basis, but that hurts - literally." Jake closed his eyes trying to banish the latest in a round of headaches that had sprung to life.

    Barry thought for a minute.

    "This might sound stupid, but I had a similar problem with my beacons at first. I was trying to create my own beacon and it wasn't working. I didn't know all the city codes and hashes and all that stuff. Then I realized I didn't have to create it from scratch, I could just modify the beacons that I was already sending. That way they were technically legit.

    "Are you trying to create new images or convert images? 'Cuz it sounds like you need a transcoder, not a mental video version of Photoshop." Barry pointed out.

    Jake looked at him for a minute but didn't say anything. Time dragged on and still Jake hadn't moved in the slightest. Barry worried that his head may have been permanently damaged with all these experiments. Jake just kept on staring into space while looking in Barry's direction. After a couple minutes it was starting to get weird so Barry got up, walked over to Jake and gave him a slight push.

    "No, no, no. Wait. I'm ok, I'm thinking." Jake flustered and held up an arm, warding Barry off.

    Jake started mumbling under his breath in a bizarre mixture of numbers and making motions in the air like he was tracing something.

    Barry shook his head, "definitely too many brain-waves", he thought to himself. While waiting for the dementia to end he went to the kitchen and found a beer in the fridge then came back to sit down on the couch. Hopefully Jake would be done "thinking" soon. When he got back Jake was at the console of his rack typing furiously.

    Barry stood for a minute watching Jake work. He had cut a square out of a black sheet of card-stock and had attached it to a clamp in front of him while looking at a blue cup. He hit a few keys on his keyboard, sat there for a minute or so, then got up, grabbed a camera on a tripod and set it up to be just where he was looking at the cup from, adjusted the card-stock and hit some more keys. After another minute or so he sat in front of the console and started typing furiously again.

    "Ok, man. Looks like you got it all worked out now. I'm going to go." Barry said as he headed for the door.

    "Wait. No. Just É wait a minute." Jake started to say as he was visibly torn between communicating and finishing what he was typing.

    "I'll chill, but don't be like an hour - I do have things to do myself." Barry said as he sighed and sat down again on the couch.

    Jake nodded as he kept typing - Barry knew that's all the acknowledgement he was going to get.


    Jake was glad Barry had stayed with him even though he wasn't much security help after he fell asleep on the couch while watching a movie. The warning from Sam had really made him feel a bit paranoid. Probably the fact that he wasn't sleeping much didn't help either, but he needed to focus now - Barry had given him an idea on how to actually make this work and he couldn't afford to be concerned about every random noise outside.

    Jake stood and looked at his camera for a minute. Then he made a final check of the settings on the console. Everything was ready. This would be it. Either this worked or he would abandon it until after DEFCON. Despite his obsession he needed to sleep a little beforehand or he'd end up just sleeping through all the tracks he went to, wasting the whole trip. Plus he didn't want to look strung out and retarded when he was doing his own presentation. He nodded once to himself and muttered something then walked over and picked up the camera-tripod setup and placed it in the corner of the room. From here he should be able to see the whole room and be able to zoom in on lots of things. The power cord ran taught and didn't quite reach, so he unplugged it - the cameras battery would last for thirty or forty minutes, that would be fine. He sat down in his chair, plugged in, closed his eyes and settled back.

    The room flashed into view!

    It was odd and he felt like his head should be hurting, but there was no pain. He was definitely looking through the camera though, his vision wasn't this good and even with glasses it was getting a bit blurry lately with the lack of sleep. He had no peripheral vision and whenever he tried to look towards the edges, the scene shifted slowly in that direction, he knew this must mean the camera was moving. This definitely had uses! If a Doctor could control his equipment this way the success rate of tricky surgeries would skyrocket. Not to mention systems administrators, who could take being in tune with their network to a whole new level. He tested each direction - up and down, left and right - they all worked. Then something caught his attention. It was a bug in the corner. He squinted to try to focus on it and felt lurched forward. He had zoomed in! This really was weird.

    After zooming in and out on a few things he felt an inner peace coming over him, he'd done it! Now he just needed to document everything before he fell asleep as he hadn't made notes yet and didn't want to forget anything, then he could finally get some real sleep. He lifted his hand to disconnect to the cable at his temple É but nothing happened! His arm didn't move! He looked down at himself sitting in the chair. He looked peaceful, but something wasn't quite right at the same time. He zoomed in, his body's eyes were fluttering dramatically - otherwise he looked restful, but that was unnerving. He tried moving his arm again, nothing. He concentrated on the arm but it was no use, it was like trying to move somebody else's arm. Then he realized he couldn't feel anything! That's why his head didn't hurt - nothing hurt. He had no feeling!

    Jake started freaking out. How was he going to get out of this thing?! Barry could unplug him when he woke up, but would he know? Would he risk unplugging him in the middle? Probably not. Somehow É then he realized, luckily he didn't plug in the camera - it would die in another thirty minutes or so. That should kick him back to himself É hopefully.

    Something flashed by on the left side of his view, he slid left to see what was happening. There were three men in black suits. He zoomed in on their faces, trying to make a mental note and remember them. A red circle flashed into his vision for a second on the floor of the room! He would've chuckled if he could, he was recording now. He got each of the men and then zoomed out again to see what they were doing.

    Barry was handcuffed and gagged! There was blood streaming out of the side of his head where they must've hit him with something heavy. These must be the people Sam had tried to warn him about. Now they'd gotten Barry.They were talking but he couldn't hear them - no mic. He zoomed, he'd always been useless at reading lips. If he got through his maybe he could get somebody to see what they were saying, or if he didn't maybe the recording would make it at least.

    Now they were walking over to his body. They were shouting at it. One of them pulled a gun! This would be hard to watch, would he see himself die? One of the other men moved over and put his hand on other one's gun, lowering it. He went closer to Jake's body and poked it a few times. Nothing. He pulled back and then decked Jake across the face. Jake's vision fuzzed for a second as the cable was jostled. There was blood on his jaw and nose, but he still sat there - eyelids still fluttering like crazy. The man stepped back and looked at him again for a minute, then they started talking again.

    The men went through the room taking every paper they could find. They took out a spacial scanner and found a few hidden recesses and took those papers too. They took his laptop and his tablet. They took his phone, they took his desktop and they took his gaming console. They came closer to the rack he was plugged into and started talking again. There was no way they could take that - it wouldn't even fit through the door! One of them took a holographic storage drive out of his bag and plugged it in to the rack's console. It was still logged on and he saw them copying everything! He zoomed in a bit more to see the screen. He watched every command they typed and towards the end saw the man cron a command to repartition all drives in an hour! That must be how long he judged it would be until they were safely away. He had to get out of this before then or everything would be lost.

    The men looked around the apartment one final time in case they missed anything. The one who had hit him before walked back towards him and then stood in front of him, considering something. He started screaming again. No reaction. The man decked him again. More blood, but still no other indication of life than the eyelids. The man's body shook briefly, he was chuckling. Jake looked like a total vegetable! Then another one picked up Barry - still unconscious and they left.

    He would've cried if he could! Barry was kidnapped and they'd probably shoot him and dump him in a gutter! He was badly messed up himself and all his notes and research were stolen! Plus if everything didn't work out when the batteries on this thing died all his work would be toast and he might even be condemned to vegetable-hood! In a matter of minutes this day had gone from the best ever to worse than he could've possibly imagined. He couldn't really feel anything, but he still felt thoroughly depressed. His resolution degraded and the whole world looked a bit more grainy.

    If only this camera had a time display he would know how long he had left. As it was, it seemed like an eternity since they'd left. There was a clock in the kitchen but he couldn't see it and with no sound everything was painfully and exactly the same. The whole concept of time was gone and the only reason he was sure he hadn't frozen was because the ceiling fan kept spinning.

    Then he saw a battery indicator appear on the bottom right of the floor! He was close! Time kept ticking É then the world went dark.

    Pain like he'd never felt before washed over him. His head felt like it had exploded. His nose and jaw felt broken. His eyes felt like they'd been ripped from his skull. He leaned over and retched. He could smell the blood and vomit as waves of it came out of his mouth and nose. The stinging metallic taste in his mouth made him dry heave again. Nothing was left. He hadn't eaten since yesterday lunch. Jake fell out of the chair and collapsed on the floor, splattering his own blood and vomit around him.

    He felt consciousness drifting from him but just before the real world went dark he remembered his rack! He had to delete that cron job! He tried to move his arms to push himself up. They didn't want to respond, but at least this time he felt that they were there. Slowly and inch by inch he pulled himself up. He had no idea how long he had left. He tried to stand but fell back down into the chair immediately. From his sitting position he reached out but the keyboard was too far. He looked around dimly, the whole world was pulsating as blood was pounding through his head. He realized he was still plugged in. Slowly he reached up and unplugged himself, a minor jolt going through his body as he disconnected. Then he pulled the cord taught, mustered all the energy he had left and stood up quickly while pulling on the cable. In a somewhat crippled fashion Jake ended up leaning against the rack. He reached over and typed out the command to nuke the cron job one letter at a time, then pushed enter. He waited a few minutes. Each second stretched out into a lifetime. Console time was past where the partitioning would've started. He must've made it, the drives weren't whirring like they would be if the cron job had fired. He checked the partition table to be sure - again one letter at a time on the keyboard. It was all still there. The data was safe. He locked the console and collapsed onto the floor.

    If only there was something he could do for Barry, but he couldn't even stay conscious himself. Painfully he shifted his right hand over to his left wrist and pushed the call button on his communicator. All he could do was mumble, "Sam." Hopefully that would be good enough. Then he passed out.


    Jake woke with a start. The room was so bright. His head hurt - at least that was familiar and oddly comforting. He slowly opened his eyes and as they adjusted to the light he saw he had company. Sam was there. There were a couple others in uniform and a Doctor. Maybe his Doctor.

    "What happened?" Jake asked.

    "We were about you ask you the same thing." Sam stated.

    Sam continued after Jake just stared at him, "I got your call and when you didn't answer anything, even when I started yelling, I figured something must be awfully wrong and I headed over. I found you collapsed and bloody in front of your rack. I thought Barry was staying with you so I tried to call him but he didn't answer either. I had him bio-tracked and found him well outside of town beaten up pretty bad. He was left handcuffed to a metal pole. He would've bled to death if we didn't show up when we did. He'll be okay, as will you, but what the hell happened?!"

    Jake told Sam about his Barry falling asleep, his experiments and then watching the three men beat the crap out of Barry and himself, then leave with Barry and his research.

    "I suppose it saved my life that they thought I was a vegetable." Jake remarked after finishing the story. "So what do we do now?"

    "You don't do anything. I'm placing you under protective custody. As for what I do, I get those recordings from your apartment and hunt these guys down." Sam replied.

    Jake thought for a second and asked, "What day is it?"

    Sam looked a little confused, but answered, "Wednesday."

    Relief spread through Jake at the news that he'd only been out for a day. "Good, then I can still make it. I HAVE to still make it. I was afraid I was unconscious longer than that." Jake threw back the covers and started to get out of bed as he said this.

    "Woah there, you're not going anywhere until I release you." The Doctor piped up.

    "I need to be out of here today Doc., I have a lot of preparations to do tonight and tomorrow. I have to get out to Vegas and speak at DEFCON on Saturday."

    Sam interjected before the Doctor could reply, "I don't know that it's safe for you to go. They might come for you there if we haven't caught them by then."

    "Dude! No way! If you haven't got them in time then you can use the Rio security system to catch them now that you know what they look like - and especially with the bio samples that you must've got, they won't set foot in that place without you knowing! And if you're really still worried then send a bunch of your guys with me. I'll be safe. Those are my people. It's probably safer there than anywhere. I didn't just almost die and let Barry get totally messed up so that you could try and pull the plug on my presentation. Now that they have my notes, I have to go public. You know that." Jake exploded, pouring most of the energy he had left into the outburst.

    "Okay. I could sent some people with you, but you will have to cooperate with them." Sam allowed.

    "No problem. I don't want to die." Jake agreed.

    "And look on the bright side, there's no question that I'm going to win the Spot-The-Fed contest!" Jake chuckled to himself as he settled back into the pillows. "I'll get you a shirt." He added as Sam mumbled something under his breath.

    This was going to be the best DEFCON ever!